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Gardening for a Second Season

by dig the dirt editor

Grow vegetables in cool weather by starting your planting in late summer!







For gardeners in mild winter areas of the country, late summer is an ideal time to plant seeds for a second gardening season that can be even more productive than your major early spring plantings. By "mild winter", I mean areas that may get frost or temperatures that dip down to the mid-20s in winter, but no hard frost or sustained very cold temperatures-a good deal of the southeastern region, parts of Texas and Arizona, the Pacific Northwest, all of California, and mild areas in many other states.

For a delicious and very nutritious cornucopia of fall meals, late summer is the time to plant juicy lettuces and other salad greens like radicchio; the cool -season aromatic herbs dill, garlic chives, chervil, cilantro, arugula, and parsley; hearty greens like chard or kale; baby pak choi, and other Oriental greens; carrots; beets; leeks; peas; green onions; spinach; radishes; fennel and all the brassica family members .

Late planted crops have less competition from weeds and pests and grow beautifully with less garden work. You'll have great harvests in time for Thanksgiving and many crops will hold perfectly through the low light winter months without bolting to seed or becoming bitter tasting as they would in the heat of early summer.

It may seem odd to be starting new seeds when a lot of your summer produce like squash and tomatoes are still cranking, but it's well worth the effort. For reliable harvests in cooler weather, seedlings must have good initial growth and well-established root systems. The goal is to have fully grown, ready to pick plants that basically store themselves in the garden throughout the fall, so you can pick them as you need them over a long sustained harvest season

Start seeds in containers or in a garden area with dappled sun or light shade -- wherever seeds can germinate comfortably out of the hot sun but still get plenty of light after seedlings are well-established. Plant in well-prepared moist soil and in the evening so they will have the advantage of cooler night temperatures to settle in and minimize shock. If daytime temperatures are still in the high 80's, shelter your newly transplanted seedlings with row covers or a shade cloths for a few days so they can adjust heat and sun. Once the seedlings have acclimated, don't forget to supply adequate moisture to these young crops and fertilize them regularly in the early growing stages. In USDA zones 8, 9, and 10, some fall -planted crops may overwinter as small plants and wait for spring temperatures to rise and daytime hours to get longer before heading or leafing up.


cool weather vegetable gardening, planting in late summer, winter crops, winter harvesting